Ballyhoura Walking Festival & Joyce Brothers Music Festival 2021

The autumn evenings may be starting to close in, so there’s no better time to get your walking boots on for the 25th Ballyhoura Walking Festival, taking place from Friday 8th to Sunday 10th October in Kilfinane, Co Limerick.

Established as Ireland’s first-ever walking festival back in the day, it provides an opportunity to explore some of Ballyhoura Country’s stunning scenery. Many of the walks are led by members of the Ballyhoura Bears Walking Club–who have in-depth knowledge of the area and its heritage, history, flora and fauna–and are suitable for all abilities, from the enthusiastic well-equipped walker who relishes the challenge of the A & B level walks to the gentle ramblers who are out to enjoy pleasant C walks.

Amongst the walking programme’s highlights are the ever-popular Darragh Hill Moon Light Walk (C Walk) on Friday evening at 7:30pm, Saturday’s breath-taking Sunrise Walk to Seefin (the highest point of Ballyhoura Mountains) led by Britton Outdoors, as well as the Walking Half Marathon (A Walk), where each participant will be awarded with a certificate of achievement.

The Slievereagh Loop Walk (B Walk) takes in part of the Ballyhoura Way and traverses streams, woodlands, forest roads and tracks, scaling its highest point of the pinnacle Slievereagh at 465m; meanwhile the easy Canon Sheehan Loop Walk (C Walk) follows glorious forest tracks, woodland paths and riverbank through Glenanaar Forest and along the banks of the Ogeen River.

There’s lots for families to enjoy too at the festival! Ballyhoura Nature Trail Family Scavenger Hunt is a fun 40-minute, 2km investigation of over 20 hidden creatures in the woods that children have to uncover on their walk. Who knows what they’ll find!

Meanwhile, the Forest Welly Waddlers session led by Ballyhoura Beo will guarantee lots of morning fun for the 2 to 5 year-olds and their parents, with a natural play session in the Ballyhoura Woodlands!

Irish Family Search are hosting the Mitchelstown Heritage Walk, which includes displays of the local native games of skittles and road bowling, and also takes in the Silk Farm, 1887 Land War Protest, Pagan Well, The Co-Op Story, local GAA lore and the 7th Century Abbey.

Sunday offers a relaxing Festival Yoga Walk by Yoga Walks Ireland. This short 2km yoga walk is suitable for everybody who would like to experience gentle movement for the body, relaxation for the mind, and feel the spiritual energy of this little hidden gem Kilfinane.

However, if your walking boots are still on a quest of discovery, you’ll have several opportunities on Sunday to satisfy them!

Discover the local history, heritage, folklore and archaeology at Lough Gur (free admission to the Visitor Centre), learn about the history of people, castle and the medieval town of Kilmallock, or join a guided tour of Doneraile Park & Gardens.

This year’s Walking Festival is collaborating with The Joyce Brothers Music Festival, which complements and enriches the walking programme with its own jam-packed schedule, featuring historical talks, musical performances, concerts, workshops, all aimed at highlighting the remarkable work of the Joyce Brothers, who were renowned for collecting and documenting Irish music, songs and poetry from the 1800s.

It starts at the Old Chapel Room in Kilfinane on a Friday evening at 7:30pm with a talk by local historian Angela Hennessy on the legacy of the Joyce Brothers, followed by an evening concert of their tunes by acclaimed traditional musicians Liam Flanagan and Derek Hickey, and finishing with an open session in McGrath’s Pub where local and visiting musicians will get a chance to play.

You can book your Friday concert ticket HERE.

The Saturday afternoon schedule includes a series of workshops, which teach the music and songs of the collection:

Traditional music workshop for beginners: learn tunes from the Joyce Brothers Collection with multi-instrumentalist Seán Ó Fearghaill. BOOK HERE

Traditional music workshop for intermediate musicians: learn tunes from the Joyce Brothers Collection with traditional master Benny McCarthy. BOOK HERE

Traditional music workshop for advanced musicians: learn tunes from the Joyce Brothers Collection with traditional master Liam O'Connor. BOOK HERE

Traditional Whistling Workshop: Learn the art of traditional whistling from expert whistler Derek Hickey. BOOK HERE

Enjoy Saturday evening concert from Joyce Brothers’ expert Liam O'Connor and renowned signer Dónal Clancy at 7:30pm at the Old Chapel Room in Kilfinane, followed by a music session in Kelleher’s Pub.

You can book your Saturday concert ticket HERE.

What a great way to relax after a day of outdoor pursuits and exploration of the local Ballyhoura scenery!

On Sunday afternoon, historian Angela Hennessy will lead a walk at 1pm from the Joyce Brothers’ homestead in Glenosheen followed by Music and Storytelling at Kilflynn Church at 2:30pm, and an option to witness the unveiling of a land-art sculpture of local legend Oisín of na Fianna on the Keale River Walk.

The sculpture of Oisín is being made by members of the local community–alongside artist Veronica Santorum–using natural materials, clay dug from the site, and willow. The sculpture is intended to appear as if it has arisen from the forest floor to then return to it over time. The theme for the sculpture was chosen to reflect local placenames which commemorate three generations of Fianna warriors, Finn MacCumhall, his son Oisín and grandson Oscar, remembered in Seefin, Glenosheen and Oscar's Bed.

The Joyce Brothers Music Festival will close with another music session in Shaughnessy’s Pub at 5pm.

To mark being surrounded all weekend by the stunning Ballyhoura landscape, festival participants with an eye for capturing a good photograph–whether that be the beautiful scenery or the ‘craic’ of the festival–can take part in an online photography competition. #BallyhouraMoments #BallyhouraWalkingFestival and #VisitBallyhoura are the all-important hashtags you will need to enter!

Festivals Schedule & Booking Links:

FRIDAY 8th October 2021

6pm | Registration for the Darragh Hills & Sunrise Walk is open until 6:45 pm outside the Old Chapel Room in Kilfinane

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7pm | Darragh Hills Moon Light Walk (C Walk)

Embark on a journey mixed with forestry roads, woodland paths and open trails, across the low lying Darragh Hills by the moonlight.

1.5 hour |7-8km | Easy Walk

Starting point: Old Daragh Creamery (bus transport from Kilfinane available)

Gear: A high visibility jacket and head/hand torch is essential

Guide: Declan Clancy (Ballyhoura Bears Walking Club)

Cost: €10

Booking link: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/da...

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7:30pm | Concert in Old Chapel Room

Join Angela Hennessy, Derek Hickey & Liam Flanagan for an evening celebrating the wonderful Joyce Brothers and their remarkable legacy.

Fee: €15 (adults) / €5 (U16) / €30 Family (2 ad 2 ch)

Booking Link: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/jo...

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9pm | Open Traditional Irish Music Session in McGraths Pub in Kilfinane where local and visiting musicians will get a chance to play.

SATURDAY 9th October


6am | Sunrise Walk to Seefin (B Walk)

Climb to the summit of Seefin where we will look out over the vales of Limerick and across the historical grounds of Castle Oliver as the sun rises.

Sunrise is at 7:45am at the summit. Back at the car approx. 9.30am

Starting Point & Time: Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Trailhead at 6am | Free parking

Gear: rain jacket, warm jumper, hat and gloves, food and water. Sturdy walking shoes.

Recommended to bring: a camera, a change of clothes in the car and an extra warm jumper for the top if we are waiting a few minutes for the sun to come up.

Guided by Mark Britton from Britton Outdoors

Price: €25pp

Booking Link: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/su...

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9am | Registration for the walking festival walks opens at 9am outside the Old Chapel Room in Kilfinane

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10am | Ballyhoura Walking Half Marathon (A Walk)

Challenge yourself to the most scenic half marathon walk in Ballyhoura Country! The half marathon route traverses one of the most scenic parts of the Ballyhouras with splendid views of Castle Oliver, the Galtees and the Knockmealdown Mountain Ranges. It consists of forest roads and tracks and woodlands incorporating parts of the Ballyhoura Way culminating in scaling the highest peak of the Ballyhouras, Seefin at 528metres.

Certificate of achievement included!!

21km | 5 hours | For experienced walkers only with a good level of fitness

Starting point: Ballyorgan | Bus transport from Kilfinane to the Starting point available

Gear: Walking boots and a high visibility jacket essential

Guide: Declan Clancy (Ballyhoura Bears Walking Club Guide)

Price: €20

Booking Link: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/ba...

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10am | Slievereagh Loop Walk (B Walk)

Starting at Ballyhoura Tourist Office in Kilfinane this loop takes in part of the Ballyhoura Way and traverses streams, woodlands, forest roads and tracks, scaling its highest point of the pinnacle Slievereagh at 465m. It offers magnificent views of the Galtees and surrounding areas.

16 km | 4 hours | A reasonable fitness level for experienced hill walkers is required.

Starting point: Kilfinane

Gear: Good walking boots and a high visibility jacket are also essential.

Guide: Deirdre Fitzpatrick (Ballyhoura Bears Walking Club Guide)

Price: €15pp

Booking Link: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/sl...

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10.30am | Forest Welly Waddlers! (Children 2-5yrs)

A parent and guardian natural play session in the Ballyhoura Woodlands that incorporates discovery, movement and craft outdoors. A hands-on play session outdoors... naturally!

Duration: 1 hour

Starting point: Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Trailhead

Facilitator: Ballyhoura Beo

Cost: €12pp

Booking Link: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/fo...

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11am | Mitchelstown Heritage Walk

Irish Family Search hosts a Heritage Walk displaying native games of Skittles & Road bowling with visits to Silk Farm, 1887 land war protest, Pagan well, Coop story, GAA lore, 7th century Abbey.

Starting point: Clongibbon House Hotel, Mitchelstown at 10:45am | 2 hour walk

Gear: Rain gear in case of rain

Cost: €5 pp

Contact: Seamus Fox 087 3589734

Booking Link: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/mi...

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11:30am | Canon Sheehan Loop Walk (C Walk)

Following glorious forest tracks, woodland paths and riverbank through Glenanaar Forest and along the banks of the Ogeen River.

Distance: 7km | 1 - 1.5 hrs | Easy Walk

Starting Point: Glenanaar Forest Car Park | Transport from Kilfinane to the starting point available

Guide: Eileen Hurley (Ballyhoura Bears Walking Club)

Price: €10pp

Booking link: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/ca...

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12pm | Ballyhoura Nature Trail Family Scavenger Hunt

Bring the family for a woodland walk with a difference. As you need to keep your eyes open to help find hidden clues along the 2km Nature Trail! Self-led, fun and fresh air for the whole family with prizes to be won for completed scavenger cards.

Cost: Scavenger Card €3per card or €5 per family.

Starting point: Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Trailhead

Duration: 1 hour

Facilitator: Ballyhoura Beo

Booking link: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/170150104543

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2-4pm | Traditional Music Workshops – Teaching music from the Joyce Collection.

Traditional music workshop for beginners

  • Learn tunes from the Joyce Brothers Collection with multi-instrumentalist Seán Ó Fearghaill. This workshop is aimed at beginner musicians with some experience (should be competent at playing polkas and marches for example)
  • Price: €10
  • Booking link: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/tr...

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Traditional music workshop for intermediate musicians

  • Learn tunes from the Joyce Brothers Collection with traditional master Benny McCarthy. This workshop is aimed at intermediate musicians (should be competent at playing jigs and hornpipes for example)
  • Price: €10
  • Booking link: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/tr...

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Traditional music workshop for advanced musicians

  • Learn tunes from the Joyce Brothers Collection with traditional master Liam O'Connor. This workshop is aimed at advanced musicians (should be competent at playing reels for example)
  • Price: €10
  • Booking link: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/tr...

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Traditional Whistling Workshop

  • Learn the art of traditional whistling from expert whistler Derek Hickey. This workshop is an opportunity to learn to whistle traditional tunes from an accomplished whistler. This workshop is aimed at anybody who can whistle a tune. Price: €10
  • Booking link: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/tr...

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7:30 pm | Saturday Evening Concert:

Join Joyce Brothers expert Liam O'Connor and renowned signer Dónal Clancy for an evening of music and songs from the Joyce Collection

Fee: €15 (adults) / €5 (U16) / €30 Family (2 ad 2 ch)

Booking link: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/tr...

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9pm | Open Session in Kelleher’s Pub where local and visiting musicians will get a chance to play

SUNDAY 10th October


10am | Festival Yoga Walk

This short 2km yoga walk is suitable for everybody who would like to experience gentle movement for the body, relaxation for the mind, and feel the spiritual energy of this little hidden gem Kilfinane. Participate in old celtic traditions, explore a modern stone circle and we will enjoy lots of fun and laughter along the route.

Starting point: Ballyhoura Centre, Kilfinane, Co. Limerick

Yoga walks are suitable for any level of fitness

Gear: Wear warm comfortable clothes, hiking boots

Cost: €20

Guided by Yoga Walks Ireland

Booking link: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/fe...

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11am | Guided walk of Lough Gur

Take a journey through time exploring the historic lakefront, impressive viewing point and newly upgraded Ash Point Trail. This event is suitable for all ages and if you can climb a leisurely 110 steps to view Lough Gur from on high then this event is for you. As part of this Lough Gur Ballyhoura Walking Festival event you will be granted free admission to Lough Gur Visitor Centre where your guide will reveal the secrets of this ancient site. Children will receive free activity booklets and have an opportunity to spend time in the newly opened Lough Gur Solstice Park Playground. All walkers can take this opportunity to visit the Kiosk or Centre coffee dock for freshly brewed coffee and tea accompanied by fresh bakes.

Departure & Registration Point: Lough Gur Visitor Centre

Walk Duration: 11am to 12.30pm

Requirements: Sensible footwear and weather-appropriate clothing

Ability: Moderate level of fitness required for climbing and navigating uneven surfaces.

Price: €5 per person.

Booking link: https://bit.ly/3mOOHwQ

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11am | Kilmallock Medieval Town Guided Walk

If Kilmallock’s walls could talk, they’d have some intriguing tales to tell. Learn about the history of people, castle and town of medieval Kilmallock with Ben O’Sullivan.

Duration: 1.5 hours

Cost: €5

Starting Point: King John's Castle, Kilmallock

Booking link: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/ki...

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2pm | Guided Tour of Doneraile Park and Gardens.

With over 400 years of history attached to the park travel back to the time of the St. Legers who shaped the park over several centuries Packed with stories and tales, the tour is an enjoyable, informative and immersive experience.

The tour is suitable for all age groups and abilities.

Starting Point: Playground Carpark at Doneraile Park

Cost: €5

Booking Link: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/gu...

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1pm | FREE Historical Walk from Joyce Brothers Homestead in Glenosheen

Angela Hennessy, historian, will lead a walk to the Joyce Brothers homestead in Glenosheen.

4km / 1 hour

No registration required

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2:30pm | Music and Story Telling at Kilflynn Church followed by Unveiling of a land-art sculpture of local legend Oisín of na Fianna on the Keale River Walk

Glenroe and Ballyorgan Community Council will unveil a new land-art sculpture of local legend, Oisín of na Fianna on the Keale River Walk, midway between the two villages. The unveiling will begin with a gathering in Kilflynn Church at 2.30pm, with music and storytelling. This will be followed by a walk at 3.30pm (40 min each way) to the waterfall along the Keale River Walk and a visit to the new sculpture.

The sculpture of Oisín is being made by members of the local community and artist, Veronica Santorum, using natural materials, clay dug from the site and willow. The sculpture is intended to appear as if it has arisen from the forest floor to then return to it over time. The theme for the sculpture was chosen to reflect local placenames which commemorate three generations of Fianna warriors, Finn MacCumhall, his son Oisín and grandson Oscar, remembered in Seefin, Glenosheen and Oscar's Bed.

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5pm | Open Session in local Shaughnessy’s Pub where local and visiting musicians will get a chance to play

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Official Close of the Festivals